Russian and Estonian pilots released in Tajik court
- Tajik prosecutor requests to release convicted Russian and Estonian pilots
- Russian pilots' smuggling case referred to Tajikistan regional court
- State Duma deems pilots' sentence in Tajikistan politicized and unfounded
- Appeal against Russian pilots' sentence submitted to Tajik court
- Prosecutors office protests sentence of Russian and Estonian pilots
DUSHANBE, November 22 - RAPSI. Russian pilot Vladimir Sadovnichy and Estonian pilot Alexei Rudenko have been released from custody in a Tajik regional court, RIA Novosti reported from the court on Tuesday.
A Kurganteppa court sentenced on November 8 Sadovnichy and Rudenko to 8.5 years in prison for illegally crossing the border, smuggling and violating international air transportation rules. The pilots' sentence was met with dismay in Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the sentence "excessively harsh and politically motivated."
Russian Ambassador to Tajikistan Yuri Popov discussed the destiny of the convicted Russian pilots three times: he spoke twice with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and once with the Tajik Foreign Ministry.
Rolkan Investmens' An-72 planes piloted by Sadovnichy and Rudenko flew on March 11 from Kabul to the Kurganteppa airport after they delivered humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. The pilots were permitted to cross the Tajik border.
Later, the dispatcher said they were not permitted to land, and the planes were forced to return to Kabul. As the planes did not have enough fuel to fly back, the pilots landed in Kurganteppa where they were detained.
The prosecution's main argument was that the pilots allegedly smuggled a half-disassembled aircraft engine that they used as a source of spare parts.
Earlier the prosecutor's office and the pilots lawyers appealed against the sentence considering it too severe.
During the hearing the prosecutor asked to sentence the pilots to two years in prison for violating air space, to 1.5 years for violating the flight regulations, but proposed the cumulative sentence of 2.5 years in prison. Taking into account that they had already spent six months in prison and the amnesty valid until December 1, the prosecutor proposed to release them from custody.